Romans 1:1-17 - Commentary

Declared to be Son of God: The Harper Collins Study Bible says that the salutation probably quotes a confession that viewed Jesus as installed in the office of Son of God when raised from the dead. I don't understand why he would do that - his position is that God's Son emptied himself (Phil 2:6-11) to become Jesus. Even the passage states that the gospel concerns God's Son who was then declared to be so by the resurrection.

Perhaps the implication is that this was the position of Peter. In Acts 2:36, Peter is quoted as saying God made the crucified Jesus Lord and Messiah. By stating his own position in a way that blends with the supposed Roman (Petrine) view, Paul would be showing his ability to ignore doctrinal differences in the interest of peace. However, there's no hint of this idea in the Petrine letters, which were products of the Petrine community in the early church. There is, however, this statement: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Pet 5:6) This might mark a victory of Pauline thought in the Petrine community, but I prefer to see Paul's salutation as his own forceful statement of his theme: Jewish-Gentile relations.

Paul's position is this: Jesus, so Jewish that he's descended from King David, was declared to be the Son of God by being raised from the dead. Now he's called me to preach his gospel to the Gentiles, and you to be saints. Implied in this is a push to work out what God has wrought. God has done this thing, Paul tells his audience, and are we going to resist it?

Paul was officially out of the business of kicking against the spurs of God. He had seized on the real tie between both Jewish and Gentile Christians; all had undergone a crisis of conversion. Christianity was a religion of immigrants. Each new member had cultural baggage that they were bringing to the mix, but all had confronted the meme of Jesus Anointed and submitted to it.

Wouldn't it be better, thinks Paul, to be mutually encouraged by each other's faith? (:12) This would be the true spiritual gift (:11) that each Christian gives to and receives from all others. Everybody who trusts in the gospel has a hand on the ball of faith - all commune in God's righteousness. They are called to be saints - set apart.

And so Paul isn't ashamed of the gospel. Romans 1:16 is a ruggedly built meme, set up admirably in the preceding text. The gospel is God's power because the gospel reveals God's righteousness. He exalted Jesus in his humility to inspire faith that he will do the same for the faithful. This saving faith is meant to be shared among the saints.

Paul carefully acknowledges that the Jewish Christians were first at the table, because it's true. But his and also to the Greek zinger echoes the classical delineation of the world by Greek scholars in verse 14. The Greeks themselves have their own cultural prejudices against barbarians, just like the Jewish Christians against their Gentile counterparts. The wise will always have their prejudices against the foolish. But everyone who has faith has something to give the community of believers.